No restart date has been set for the local Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plants as the company pushes to begin reopening its Detroit plants next week.
Rick Ward, president of United Auto Workers 685, which represents the plants in Kokomo and Tipton, said he’s heard no solid date on when the local factories will reopen, although the company said last week it aimed to restart some facilities on Monday.
“At this point, nothing I have heard is solid for any plant yet,” Ward said. “We want to make sure, and the company does too, that we’re safe and prepared.”
Jodi Tinson, FCA communications director for manufacturing and labor, said Tuesday in an email that “most U.S. plants will restart on May 18,” but would not provide any additional information.
Ward said in a previous interview the timeline on when the FCA plants in Michigan reopen and gear up will directly impact when the local factories can restart.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that manufacturing workers could resume work on Monday even though she had extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 28.
Whitmer said last week that the state’s big three auto suppliers, in agreement with the UAW, will start returning to work on May 18, where they’ll begin at 25% capacity before phasing up.
In the meantime, the company has being implementing a program of enhanced safety measures to protect employees, their families and the surrounding communities from the spread of COVID-19 when the plants reopen.
“Above everything else, our top priority has always been to do what is right for our employees,” said FCA CEO Mike Manley in a release. “We have worked closely with the unions to establish protocols that will ensure our employees feel safe at work and that every step possible has been taken to protect them.”
The company said that includes cleaning and disinfecting more than 57-million-square feet of manufacturing floor space and installing more than 2,000 hand sanitizer stations across all FCA facilities.
The company has also evaluated more than 17,000 workstations for adherence to 6-foot social distancing guidelines, and redesigned or installed protective barriers at over 4,700 job areas to allow for more social distancing.
On top of that, employees, as well as all visitors, will be required to complete a daily health risk assessment, which consists of taking their temperature less than two hours before reporting to work and completing a self-screening questionnaire and turning it in upon entry. The company is also installing thermal imaging cameras to verify what employees and visitors have self-reported.
Ward said he has toured the local FCA plants, and the facilities are as sanitized as he’s ever seen them.
“The cleaners are doing an excellent job,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement, but these plants are as clean as I’ve ever seen them in 32 years.”
FCA said it will continue to monitor and audit conditions at all its facilities, as well as the latest information on COVID-19 from federal and state agencies, to implement new safeguards and procedures as needed.